While you were packing your classroom at the end of school, the Texas Legislature was finishing the 85th legislative session and TCEA was working for you. In most instances, all of our hard work in gaining support for our issues came down to the last weekend in May. Most legislation fails to pass largely because there is not enough time for the bills to get passed. The Texas Legislature only meets every other year, and for only 140 days. Our forefathers purposely made it difficult to pass a bill for fear that the government might grow and have too much power. Out of the 6,631 bills that were filed, only 1,089 passed and became law. Fortunately, eight of those bills were supported by TCEA for the benefit of our members. Below are some of the highlights of the legislation that was passed:
- $25 million to help districts provide adequate and affordable broadband
- Up to $25 million to provide grants to districts to provide Internet access and mobile devices for student home use
- Changed the name of the Instructional Materials Allotment to the Technology and Instructional Materials Allotment to better identify what the allotment was established to fund
- Requires the SBOE to consider the technology needs of districts when planning the adoption process and proclamation schedule.
High-Quality Instructional Materials and Student Privacy
- Provides a web portal for school districts that will provide valuable information about available instructional materials, for purchase, as well as free materials. Within this portal, districts can compare products based on price, technical requirements, TEKS alignment, and editorial reviews.
- Encourages school districts to consider Open Education Resources (OER) when they adopt new instructional materials
- Establishes an OER repository for school districts to share OER materials
- Requires online technology and publishing companies to use student data only for the purpose for which it has been gathered and take necessary steps to protect student’s personally identifiable information
Leadership and Professional Development
- Requires the SBOE to update the Long-Range Plan for Technology at least every five years
- Requires school districts who want to apply for the technology lending grants to have a technology plan
- Requires educator preparation programs to assess the digital teaching proficiency of preservice teachers based on the new ISTE Educator Standards
Ensuring that policy makers understand that technology is now a foundational component to the learning process is one of TCEA’s strategic goals. Judging by what legislation was passed, we feel good about the progress we made this session. The efforts that many of our officers and members made to email, call, or come to the Texas Capitol to testify or visit their state legislator played a critical role in getting the bills passed. Never underestimate your influence on your elected officials. Thank you for all your hard work, and keep it up!
If you need more information about these bills, check out TCEA Bill’s Analysis. You can also learn more by subscribing to TCEA’s Advocacy Updates to receive the video recording of the monthly webinars if you cannot attend live.
Information is power; so get informed and stay involved.